Posts tagged ‘Nonfiction Monday’

My Leaf Book

My Leaf BookTitle: My Leaf Book
Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
ISBN: 9780803741416
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers, published by the Penguin Group, LLC., c2015

So many trees, so many leaves.
When the trees change colors, autumn is here,
and I go to the park to see
how many different leaves I can find.

A young girl visits an arboretum with her dog over the course of several days collects leaves and creates an informational book. Wellington specifies in an author’s note that the pictures were made with collages and did not use a computer, which makes the detailed, boldly colored and textured pictures all the more interesting. It’s almost unbelievable how much time that must have taken her to accomplish, which proves how involved artists are with their work. She reveals her methods at the end, so kids can try making leaf prints and rubbings for their own book. Each leaf is identified and has an accompanying fact or two, with the leaf shape accompanying the name so when multiples appear on a page there is no confusion which is which. A little long for toddler story time, but share with preschoolers or older children. When used in a story time, I cut up this leaf bingo sheet from the blog Relentlessly Fun Deceptively Educational (LOTS of great stuff to be found there!) and distributed so parents had a quick and convenient reference guide and could go home and identify their own trees. Keep this on your list of fall books and recommend to patrons.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower

Tricky VicTitle: Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
Author/Illustrator: Greg Pizzoli
ISBN: 9780670016525
Pages: 39 pages
Publisher/Date: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, c2015.

“Victor” was a convincing count: exceedingly well dress, soft spoken, and always with lots of money to spare at the game tables. Once the ship docked and the passengers disembarked, “Count Lustig” would disappear, along with their money. (5)

“Count Victor Lustig” was the alias of Robert Miller, a man born in the Czech Republic who didn’t stay in one place for very long. He traveled around the world playing people for their money, from his home country to America, Europe, and back again, earning the respect of Al Capone before finally getting caught and imprisoned in Alcatraz. Two popular cons were either selling a money making box to an unsuspecting person or simply counterfeiting the money directly. His most well-known con however was selling the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal, a trick that proved so successful that he attempted it a second time.

Little is known with certainty about Robert Miller, and Pizzoli makes that clear in his author’s note. Teachers will also appreciate a glossary of terms, an extensive works cited list, and a word about the artwork. The effort to include primary sources within the illustrations, like Miller’s death certificate, should also be highlighted if used in a classroom. There’s some light symbolism in the use of a finger print in place of Miller’s face in every illustration, which was a distinctive but very effective method of obscuring his identity but still allude to the criminal nature of his work (being fingerprinted when arrested) and his unique fabricated identity and business (since all fingerprints are different). Adults might be interested to seek out more information, but this is a succinct narrative and an age-appropriate introduction to the idea of con artists, fakes, and double crosses.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

I’m Trying to Love Spiders

I'm Trying to Love SpidersTitle: I’m Trying to Love Spiders
Author/Illustrator: Bethany Barton
ISBN: 9780670016938
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, c2015.

Like this spider right here. I’m gonna try really hard to like him. Maybe if I study him for a while… I think it’s working… AHHHHHH!! It’s Moving!! Squish it!! Squish it!! Squish it!!

The author of this book realizes that it is not easy to love spiders, but it’s the thought that counts, right? After trying to focus on the many amazing features of spiders, such as having eight eyes, they are related to scorpions and ticks, and there are more than 40,000 different species. The only fact that proves helpful in seeing spiders in a new light is they’re ability to eat over 75 pounds of bugs in a year, which gets immediately tested when it tries to rid the pages of the book of other bugs. But by then, there are other problems, and they go by the name COCKROACH!

Nonfiction in the form of a picture book, this subgenre really is underutilized by the story time providers, including myself. So when I saw a coworker using this one for her story time, I just had to take a peak. The one tiny wish I have for this was that there was some indication of whether all the spiders drawn in the book were true to scale or not. That would have been most beneficial. Over a dozen spiders are identified on the end papers and inside the book which imparts bite-sized facts about these bugs. The interactive element is an added bonus, and one that certainly appeals to kids, as I had a story time child steal it from my table and was stomping on the bug pictures as I read the next book! So whether it promotes a love for bugs or just a love for smashing them, either way you are educated and can make an informed rather than instinctive decision. Right?

Bee Dance

Bee DanceTitle: Bee Dance
Author/Illustrator: Rick Chrustowski
ISBN: 9780805099195
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, c2015.

I’m all a buzz (pun intended) about the cut paper collage pictures, which are full of details enhanced with pastel pencils. Just think about the time it must have taken author/illustrator Rick Chrustowski to create all those bees out of tiny pieces of intricately cut paper and those multi-hued flowers, grass, and leaves. Especially pay attention to the different layouts, including one as if you were an ant on the prairie watching the swarm of bees approach the flowers towering over you like fighter pilots at Pearl Harbor. Although this is located in nonfiction, the information is succinct enough and short enough to share with the story time crowd, especially if you pair with action movements. Don’t be afraid to shake your booty just like a bee. An author’s note provides further detail about the documented bee dance, and thanks a Cornell University professor for vetting the text. Bee-autiful!

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

Got Milked?

Got MilkedTitle: Got Milked?: The Great Dairy Deception and Why You’ll Thrive Without Milk
Author: Alissa Hamilton
ISBN: 9780062362056
Pages: 319 pages
Publisher/Date: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2015.

Upon closer examination, the North American preoccupation with milk as vital betrays something more worrisome than a mere buy-in to dairy industry advertising. It signals a nationwide surrendering to fuzzy logic. (3) […]

True, milk is convenient. It’s everywhere. You won’t find bushels of kale or broccoli at the corner Stop n’ Go. You are guaranteed to find cartons of milk, from nonfat to full fat, from strawberry to chocolate flavored, from single-serve chugs to gallon-size jugs. True, milk is high in calcium, but it’s also high in sugar, cholesterol, calories, and saturated fat. Just because milk is readily available, just because you can get it anywhere, doesn’t mean you should. What we don’t hear so much about is that milk is one of the most allergenic foods; the majority of American adults can’t digest it; animal studies have shown that the major type of protein in milk, casein, also promotes cancer; and lactose, the sugar in milk, breaks down during digestion into the highly inflammatory sugar, D-galactose, which has been proven to promote aging and disease in mice. Even milk’s high calcium content, a seemingly incontrovertible good, may not in fact be doing our bodies good. (6-7)

It’s obvious that author Hamilton is going to milk the misconceptions about milk for as long as possible, She does a relatively thorough job of disproving it’s importance both in the food industry and in our diets. The JD mentioned in her jacket author biography shows in her methodical evaluation of claims made by the milk industry, sometimes reading like closing arguments as she puts milk on trial. Chapters include comparisons of the minerals in other foods to those claimed to be in milk (I say claimed because Hamilton argues they are misrepresented), the ineffectiveness of the minerals and vitamins milk actually does have due to the processing, the prevalence of an inability to digest milk in the general population, and the prominence of publicity and marketing efforts by not only the industry but also the government and food associations to convince the public otherwise.

As you can see by the summary, even though it’s surprisingly coherent for the lay person to understand,  it’s a dense read due to the amount of specifics and concepts that are being thrown at one time to readers. For instant, when discussing the nutritional benefits of calcium substitutes, she writes “My 300-gram bag of black, organic chia seeds says each 2-tablespoon serving contains 77 calories; 15 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium, which equals 150 milligrams; and 24 percent of the DV for magnesium, which equals 96 milligrams.” (182) Whole paragraphs are devoted to this kind of language, which is important to prove the point but also makes for a circuitous and detailed read. It’s made even more taxing as she bounces between units from multiple measuring systems, possibly in an attempt to make it understandable for both Canadian and American readers.

Almost 100 pages of the book is devoted to four days of recipes, a detailed list of references, and an index. Hamilton takes great pains to stress that the nutritional information is based on estimates and not lab-tested. It’s also strikes me as somewhat odd that after spending almost an entire chapter on the sugar content in milks, the amount of sugar in the recipes isn’t mentioned. Throughout the book she digresses into waxing poetically over kale, seeds, and other food alternatives. However, the directions are broken down into easy to understand steps, to the point where she explains how to bake a potato, which will help beginning chefs. I haven’t had an opportunity to test the recipes, but they sound good, if a little overly seasoned/spiced compared to my normal cooking routine. Overall, it’s an eye-opening assessment of the world’s adoration of milk, which after reading Hamilton’s book you might think it doesn’t deserve.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

Swing Sisters

Swing SistersTitle: Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Author: Karen Deans
Illustrator: Joe Cepeda
Pages: unpaged
ISBN: 9780823419708
Publisher/Date: Holiday House, c2015.

Dr. Jones loved music and wanted the children to love it too. In 1939 he started a school band that was just for girls, and he called it the Sweethearts.

Started as an fundraiser for a African American orphanage founded in 1909, the Sweethearts soon became something more. They played in the beginning for schools and church groups. When the musicians aged out of the orphanage, they stayed together, playing all over the country, including at the Howard Theater in Washington to an audience of 35,000 people and overseas in Europe for the troops during World War II. For years they quietly broke Jim Crow laws, allowing any women who could jump, jive, and swing on an instrument to join their band. This caused problems with some folks, forcing some of their members to sneak out of their bus and head to the train station via taxi rather than getting caught by the police in the company of African Americans. Eventually, the group disbanded as the women pursued other goals and interests, like other jobs or families.

It’s interesting to learn about an African American orphanage during the 1900s that taught literacy skills to children many saw as underprivileged, when so many African American children weren’t taught how to read or write. With sparse writing that conveys just enough information for younger readers which the book is geared toward, it’s a welcome addition that websites, books, and documentaries are available for those who would like to learn more, including a NPR broadcast and a Smithsonian feature from a few years ago. While just a blip in music, women’s, and African American histories, these trail blazers have not been forgotten, even if — as one interview remarks — few recordings of their work are still around.

The illustrations are multicolored and textured, and the oil and acrylic paintings lend a texture, similar to cracked paint, that encourage a lingering look and give it an old time feel. The crowd scenes are equally impressive as many of the people have distinguishing characteristics and skin tones, and the period clothing is quite colorful. The closing scenes of a silhouetted band playing in front of a sunset orange and yellow hued background, paired with an older women passing along a trumpet to a younger girl, reflect the closing sentiments of the book. “Those Sweethearts didn’t know it at the time, but they helped open doors for women of all backgrounds.” (unpaged)

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.

Draw What You See

Draw What You SeeTitle: Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews
Author: Kathleen Benson
Illustrator: Illustrated with paintings by Benny Andrews
ISBN: 9780544104877
Pages: 32 pages
Publisher/Date: Clarion Books, c2015.

Benny started to draw when he was three years old. Once he started, he never stopped. (6)

This picture book biography summarizes the life of Benny Andrews, an African-American artist born in the 1930s and living long enough to teach children displaced by Hurricane Katrina how to express their emotions through art. While I enjoyed the use of his actual works to illustrate, rather than having an illustrator mimic his style, I was somewhat disappointed that the majority of the pieces selected were from his later years. For someone who has lived and painted as long as he had, I expected a broader selection, although I found myself enjoying his later pieces (done in the last decade of his life) more than the very few earlier works that were included. A detailed time line pairs years with the information in the narrative, but they highlight works that are not included in the book. Back mater also identifies each of the images, and cites sources and resources, although most of them are not easily accessible as they are movies and exhibition catalogs. The narrative portrays racism in easy to understand vignettes, including walking to school, missing school due to work, and being unrepresented in museum exhibits. It’s important to enlighten children that there are other, more modern artists, rather than always falling on the classics (Van Gogh and Picasso). For that reason alone this book should be included in the collection, but it will have to be publicized as Benny Andrews is not someone most kids will search out and you may find yourself withdrawing it due to low use in just a few years.

nonfiction mondayThis review is posted in honor of Nonfiction Monday. Take a look at what everyone else is reading in nonfiction this week.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127 other followers

%d bloggers like this: